Archives For Christopher Penczak

TempleFest, the annual summer festival of the Temple of Witchcraft, was held the weekend of July 29-31 in South Hampton, New Hampshire. The festival was hosted on a privately-owned farm deep in the hills of southern New Hampshire, and on a property guarded by red, white, and black masks of Hecate. Her guardianship seems completely appropriate in this place, which feels like a true crossroads between the everyday world and the world of all thing magickal.

Masks of Hecate guard the Crossroads at the entry. Photo Credit: Tim Titus

Masks of Hecate guard the Crossroads at the entry. [Photo Credit: T.Titus]

TempleFest’s theme is “Spirit, Community, Education,” and there was plenty of each on display throughout the weekend in the form of powerful rituals, mutual support for attendees of all experience levels, and an excellent array of classes and workshops. Approximately 370 attendees from the TempleFest community came together along with special guests to learn and grow, and to also have fun while challenging their minds and hearts.

This was symbolized magickally by the Web of Community – a web of yarn which stood near the center of the grounds. According to Robbi Packard, one of the designers of the web, “The intent behind it is to have a visual representation of how we give and receive from community. To show how we are all connected no matter where we attach ourselves to the web. Each of the cards the participant is to put on one side what it is they give to community, and on the other side what it is that they received from community. As the elements bless the web so are we blessed.”

The Web of Community Photo Credit: Tim Titus

The Web of Community. [Photo Credit: T. Titus]

As a featured guest and first-time attendee, David Salisbury was impressed with his experience from the beginning. “I’ve been to Pagan festivals in every region of the country, and my first year at TempleFest truly stood out,” said Salisbury. “As a guest teacher, I was very impressed with the care to detail that the organizers took with every detail.”

Those details began with the very first ceremony. Friday night’s opening ritual was presided over by the Temple’s Aries Minister, Michael Cantone, and his deputies. The leaders cast a circle of protection around the property to ensure safety for all attendees. Deputy Aries Minister Fred Isom evoked the protection of Archangel Michael, and then the sacred fire was kindled.

Representatives from each of the Temple of Witchcraft’s 12 ministries, one representing the archetype of each zodiac sign, charged a log with the blessings of its archetype and placed it into the pit. Participants charged a red crystal point with protection, and the crystal was placed in a cauldron near the sacred fire to send its charge out to the grounds and the people. Additionally, near the end of the ritual, attendees were reminded that the weekend was a spiritual event. They were encouraged to enjoy themselves, but also to keep in mind the sacredness of the weekend, and to use this time as a refuge from this year’s nasty political scene.

The fire crystal [Photo Credit: Brenda Titus]

Then a full slate of classes began. From the beginning, it was clear that the education options were both varied and robust. Friday’s first session included offerings on the triple shadow by author Ivo Dominguez, Jr., as well as sessions on advanced rune technique, Salisbury’s book Cleansing and Clearing, spiritual alchemy, and Faery Tradition teacher Storm Faerywolf’s alignment with the 13 Planes of Progression.

Perhaps selfishly, I attended my wife’s session on “Digging Down to the Roots” through hypnosis, in which she helped her guests identify and explore some of the lesser known roots of the difficult issues in their lives. Judging from the number of people who stayed to ask questions afterward, the session was very effective.

Friday’s second session included a sound medicine journey, a chanting circle led by temple co-founder and Virgo Minister Adam Sartwell, and a mediumship class in which instructor Danielle Dionne taught how techniques from her Spiritualist roots could be used by Witches to communicate with those who have crossed over.

The beautiful Labyrinth Room of the farmhouse, which you really do have to see to believe since it indeed contains a full-sized labyrinth on the tile floor, was packed in a circle three-deep for Dionne’s presentation. She discussed techniques for linking with ancestors on the other side as well as how to provide both “evidence and essence” of the deceased’s presence. She also discussed ethical issues in the practice of mediumship and cautioned that, just because the advice comes from a spirit does not mean it is correct. “Know your dead people,” Dionne cautioned.

The final event of Friday evening was “The Procession of the Fallen Light,” a poetic ritual connecting the stories of three mythological “falls” which allowed the Three Rays of Love, Will, and Wisdom to descend to the Earth. In the dark of night, we made our choice and followed one ray by the light of a lantern to a new circle, claiming the power and light of one of those rays within ourselves.

Three Lanterns of Love, Will, and Wisdom Photo Credit: Brenda Titus

Three Lanterns of Love, Will, and Wisdom. [Photo Credit: Brenda Titus]

“I particularly enjoyed the fact that this was a very Witch-specific festival, which was a fun change from the usual pan-Pagan environment I’m used to while travelling,” said Salisbury. “While the festival had a specific focus, the diversity of workshops and rituals seemed to hold something for everyone. It was also nice to see offerings that held a deeper focus for experienced practitioners, which is hard to find at public festivals.”

Saturday’s slate of offerings began with a talk by temple co-founder Christopher Penczak on the Mysteries of the Seven Stages of Bread. Penczak led his large audience through the seven key stages of creating bread, and he connected those stages to a progressive process of personal and spiritual evolution. Although he acknowledged that this was a rather advanced concept for some listeners, Penczak also noted that the nature of the mysteries is that one gets from them what one is able to see and process at the time. “Preserve the mysteries. Reveal them often,” he quipped.

After this lecture, the educational program broke back out into sessions. There was more to choose from. I ended up attending Winifred Costello’s presentation of the “Three Realms of the Major Arcana.” Costello is clearly a tarot expert, and she presented her personal method of looking at the Major Arcana as a division of physical, mental, and spiritual portions of the Fool’s Journey. Costello encouraged her attendees to “leave their comfort zone” and always look for new ways to examine the cards.

Saturday was a long day, filled with sessions and rituals.  It was punctuated by keynote speaker Judika Illes’ brilliant and humorous presentation entitled “Saints: The Powerful, Generous Dead.” Especially for a person not raised in a Catholic context, Illes knowledge of the saints is both wide and deep. She made a powerful case that saints existed before Christianity, and despite the Catholic Church’s desire to claim them for their own, she emphasized that “Christianity does not own the saints.” Illed detailed a number of them who exist outside of the Christian context and provided an overview on how and why to work with saints, then gave tips on choosing the right saints for particular needs.

Illes enjoyed her time and her audience at TempleFest. “TempleFest was a revelation,” she said. While she arrived somewhat unsure of what to expect, Illes added that, “What I discovered was an amazingly well-organized conference filled with passionate, committed, open-minded, loving people. I felt so incredibly welcomed.”

Prayer flags were available to the community. Photo Credit: Tim Titus

Prayer flags were available to the community. [Photo Credit: T. Titus]

An interesting part of Saturday was a counterpoint between two sessions denoted as “cafes.” On Saturday afternoon, Scorpio Minister Elsa Elliot and one of her deputy ministers, Danielle Dionne, hosted a “death café,” in which folks simply sat down and talked about death over cakes and cookies. Complete with a stuffed, plush Cerberus utilized as a “talking stick,” the conversation proved to be challenging, illuminating, and refreshingly honest.

That evening, the other Deputy Scorpio Minister, Wrentek McGowan, led a “sex café,” with the same basic goals, but with the topic changed to sexuality. Together, the two cafes provided a fantastic experience of talking openly and honestly about two topics which are often considered taboo, but which many Pagans and Witches find sacred.

As a light rain fell on Sunday morning, the day’s highlight was a lively panel on Justice, Hexing, and Activism. Moderated by Penczak, the panel included Illes, Dominguez Jr., Salisbury, Sartwell, and author Courtney Weber. The controversial topic has been discussed around the Pagan blogosphere recently, sometimes leading to anger and insults. This fact made it all the more helpful to have a panel of experienced Witches speaking candidly and sometimes disagreeing politely with each other.

The discussion was full of the complexity and nuance one would expect when wise people come together to discuss a difficult topic. Weber called it “our obligation as citizens to work against injustice.” Yet, she also suggested that it may be better to hex a policy that creates the problem rather than the person who committed it. Salisbury reminded us that justice is “a process,” and just because we can’t see it working does not mean it is not occurring.

The panelists discussed their own ideas of justice. They went deep into the controversies surrounding the casting of hexes, sometimes criticizing the large public calls to send hexes in some cases while often ignoring other instances of injustice. It was one of those situations, much like the two cafes, where everyone knew that some people were made uncomfortable, and yet the airing of ideas and opinions — especially those which conflicted with preconceived notions — both challenged and benefited everyone involved.

Illes cautioned that Witches who seek to curse should take the time to examine their own motivations and the degree of injustice they are battling. “If you think being uncomfortable is suffering, you are so lucky,” she said. “A lump in the throat is not the same as a lump in the breast.” Warning against revenge for revenge’s sake, Dominguez advised that a potential curse should “leave an opening for the person to change and grow.” The target may suffer, but there should be a chance for them to improve as a result.

The panel on Justice, Hexing, and Activism Photo Credit: Nathan Oididio

The panel on Justice, Hexing, and Activism [Photo Credit: Nathan Hall]

Reactions from those who attended were very positive. Chandra Williams, who traveled from Virginia to attend the festival for the third time, said “This has been my favorite one so far. This year was packed full of so many wonderful choices of workshops that it was hard to choose which to attend.” Another attendee, Karen Ainsworth, who came from the United Kingdom for the second consecutive year, called the it “a truly awesome and magickal experience,” adding that, “My heart is so full of love right now!”

Melisande, who drove to New Hampshire from Prince Edward Island, Canada, “felt very welcome and comfortable. She appreciated the chance to “experience the energy of the rituals,” and the “variety of workshops,” adding that she particularly enjoyed Illes’ keynote speech, calling it “Very engaging as well as informative as she shared some of her knowledge with a good dash of humor.”

Debbie Stellhorn, a Temple of Witchcraft Mystery School student who came in from New Jersey, very much enjoyed a lesser known aspect of the TempleFest: The consecration of mystery school students on Thursday night. She says it was a “chance to meet other temple members and elders in our community and through them I’ve formed lasting friendships. The consecrations themselves are so powerful,” said Stellhorn, “I would make the trip up just to take part in them.”

J.T. Mouradian, who came in from Massachusetts, stated emphatically, “TempleFest 2016 was a profound event. Drumming and dancing with the people I love was empowering. Learning from so many wise people was enlightening. Sitting and talking with the people I love was a priceless blessing.”

TempleFest ended Sunday afternoon. The Web of Community was gathered, blessed, and committed to the fire to send out its blessings as participants said their goodbyes until next year. “At the end of TempleFest, we gather the energy that has been flowing through the web to the center of it, and Alix and Christopher carry it to the sacred fire where is burned and released,” explained Packard. With the magickal work complete, the festival was over for another year.

Closing Ritual Photo Credit: Tim Titus

Wright and Penczak commit the Web of Community to the sacred fire in the closing ritual. [Photo Credit: T. Titus]

Nicole, the Temple of Witchraft’s Libra Minister and one of the organizers of TempleFest, said that next year will be a new experience. The festival has outgrown its current location and will be moving to a new venue. “We will be moving to a new location, a nature-focused conference center in southern central New Hampshire,” said Nicole. She added that “We are also starting to get requests for invitations to present at TempleFest, so we know the word is out that we put on a good event.”

Attendees agree. Mouradian told the story of his mother coming to one day of the festival. “On the way out,” he explained, “she hugged and thanked me. She said very plainly, ‘You all love one another, J.T.’”

After her first experience with TempleFest, Illes said, “I recommend TempleFest wholeheartedly to anyone with an interest in Witchcraft and Paganism, whether or not they belong to the Temple of Witchcraft. I can’t wait to return.”

Mouradian concluded poetically:

“This weekend I celebrated Life
This weekend I celebrated Love
This weekend I celebrated Magick
This weekend I celebrated Music
This weekend I celebrated Community…
I am proud to call myself a Witch.”

 *    *    *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

NEW YORK — WitchsFestUSA, an annual Pagan festival held in the heart of New York City, was attended this year by Christian protesters. The noisy group, who stood all day on the corner of Astor Place, held up large signs calling for repentance and angrily yelling at the passing crowd. Despite the protesters’ presence, the Pagan festival kept to its program and ended on a high note.

[Photo Credit: Emma Story / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Emma Story / Flickr]

Now in its fifth year, WitchsFestUSA describes itself as an outdoor, Pagan street faire. Its mission is to “bring the community of witches or pagans together in general and enjoy who we are as such, while at the same time raising funds for The NYC Wiccan Family Temple acquire our own space of worship.”

The festival was founded and is annually hosted by elder High Priestesses Starr RavenHawk and Luna Rojas. RavenHawk founded and now runs Wiccan Family Temple and the Academy of Pagan Studies, both located in New York City. In 2013, RavenHawk was featured in a Time Magazine about Witchcraft and its modern day practice. Rojas is also a high priestess and member of the Wiccan Family Temple. Additionally, Rojas is the founder of the New York City Pagan Council, a pagan civil rights organization.

RavenHawk and Rojas have been running WitchsFestUSA since 2011. The festival takes place in New York City’s Greenwich Village on Astor Place between Broadway & Lafayette Streets. The one-day Pagan event hosts a variety of workshops, rituals, performances, and vendors, all set up on Manhattan streets like a typical city street faire. This year’s guest presenters were many, including: Rev. Don Lewis, Lilith Dorsey, Christopher Penczak, Courtney Weber Hoover, Lady Rhea, Rhonda Choudry, Qumran Taj, and Lexa Rosean.

Starr Ravenhawk WitchsFest 2016 [Photo Credit: C. Weber Hoover]

Starr RavenHawk WitchsFest 2016 [Photo Credit: C. Weber Hoover]

The group of protesters, who numbered between 10 and 20 at any given time, arrived early and stayed all day. They set up on one corner of Astor Place, near the festival’s teaching tents. The group held up signs and yelled at the growing festival crowd. According to RavenHawk, this was the same group of people who protested Pagan Pride in 2015.

Witch and author Christopher Penczak told The Wild Hunt that the protesters appeared to be “some evangelical variety” of Christian, but he could not identify any specific denomination or church affiliation.

“I have never encountered such a belligerent group,” said Hannah, a member of the Temple of Witchcraft and a regular attendee at Pagan and other similar conventions. “One [protester] screamed in my face that I need to repent.” She said that, in her experience, most convention protesters are typically more passive. “These guys were seriously full of aggression and hate.”

While the group kept to its physical location on the street corner, its members were reportedly extremely loud and often shouted over the teachers trying to teach, which appeared to be their goal. In a blog post, author and priestess Courtney Weber Hoover wrote, “We delayed the beginning of our workshops as their ‘Repent, you guys! You’re all going to hell!’ rallies were too loud!”

Lexa Rosen, who was scheduled to teach in the tent directly beside the protesters, attempted to start a chant and a spiral dance to hush them,” as relayed by Wiccan High Priestess Dawn Marie. She said, “In the end we moved her tent over so she could do some of her workshop.”

As Penczak began to teach his workshop, he quickly realized that he couldn’t “speak without yelling to be heard.” He said, “Though naive, I thought: ‘has anyone asked them to be quieter in a polite way?’ Have we tried to just talk to them?’ So I tried.”

While other attendees had engaged with the protesters in theological debate, Penczak “had a more practical request in mind.” He simply wanted to ask them to lower their volume. As his story goes, he approached the woman leading the chants, who said, “Can’t you see I’m busy. I got a job to do. I’ve got no time to talk to you.” Penczak then “tried to explain that [he] also had a job to do and she was making it impossible.” She ignored him.

Penczak said, “I tried to talk to what I thought was her associate right next to her but the gentleman turned around, and his sign said ‘Will work for cigarettes,’ and he explained he wasn’t with her.” He said that he then returned to his “teach-yell” workshop.

Weber Hoover said the same: “I led my Tarot class with a chorus of shouts about Jesus and redemption off to my left.”

Weber Hoover teachers WitchsFest 2016 [Photo Credit: Ron Frary]

Weber Hoover teachers WitchsFest 2016 [Photo Credit: Ron Frary]

Priestess and author Lilith Dorsey experienced the same. She shared this story with us:

I was all set to give my Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism workshop when I realized I was about 10 feet away from a loud group of Christian protesters. My godson who had come with me asked if I was going to try to reason with them. My initial response was that I used to sing on Broadway and it would be possible to talk louder than them even at this close distance. So my understanding class gathered close and I proceeded to project a well-received and well-attended lecture despite the circumstances.

Dorsey added, “After my class was over I think there was a moment where I flashed some devil horns and stuck out my tongue.”

In talking about this unfortunate situation, Dorsey made it a point to express her “respect for Christians who practice what they preach.” This sentiment was echoed in Weber Hoover’s blog post. She wrote, “I won’t call [the protesters] Christians. I know too many wonderful Christians to lump them in with this crowd.”

However, Dorsey said that, in this particular situation, she felt “disturbed and disrespected.” She added, “I have sat on interfaith councils with Christians and people of all faiths. Fortunately I have never had to directly deal with such vitriol until now. It was extra disheartening to see many people of color protesting, which in light of recent events and the #blacklivesmatter movement makes me want to ask them don’t you have better things to shout at.”

Winifred Costello, a Traditional Witch and the proprietor of AwenTree, was visiting from her home in Western Massachusetts. She said, “I felt upset for the presenters, organizers and attendees that worked hard to put on the event. The protesters were yelling so intensely and with such anger, that I did could not hear the workshop presenter speaking and I did not feel comfortable sticking around.”

Dawn Marie echoed that sentiment, saying, “[The protesters] were really angry and aggressive, and I started to worry that it would get out of hand because of the recent shootings.” She had to shield herself, adding that she felt “rattled” and “inconvenienced.”

The New York City Police Department was on hand and watching the protest. RavenHawk noted that four officers remained near the protesters at all times to protect the attendees. Dana Marie said that “[The officers] were respectful and kept us protected while keeping an eye on the protesters and telling them to stop getting so loud.”

WitchsFest 2016 [Photo Credit: Ron Frary]

Attendees at WitchsFest 2016 [Photo Credit: Ron Frary]

However, not everyone felt safe. As mentioned earlier, Costello left the festival because of the intensity of the protest. She said, “Due to recent events in the nation, I felt far more sensitive to, and disturbed by, the strong vibe of intolerance radiating from this group in particular. It is not that I haven’t encountered religious protesters before but given the reality of how intolerance is literally leading to folks being killed, I just had no stomach for the energy these protesters had. If they want to spread their beliefs I think there are more productive, kinder and tolerant methods than the actions they choose.”

She continued on to say, “The biggest take-away from this experience was that we need to keep advocating for positive, safe change, for acceptance of diversity in our country. The time of angry intolerance and fear-driven actions needs to shift towards a time of inclusion, acceptance and peaceful interactions.”

While many attendees simply ignored the protesters, others, like Penczak, did engage with them in some way. RavenHawk told The Wild Hunt, “I tried at first to reason with them that, this is our civil rights to be here and practice our religion, just like they do. To which they answered that it was their right as well to do their job and save us despite ourselves.”

On her blog, Weber Hoover describes her own action, in which she hugs two of the protesters and repeatedly says, “I love you.” Her chanting first elicited the same statement back. However, as she continued and got louder, the two protesters became fearful that she was casting a spell.

WitchsFestUSA 2016 [Photo Credit: C. Weber]

WitchsFestUSA 2016 [Photo Credit: C. Weber]

Weber Hoover said, “[A leader] held his hand up and started shouting an incantation, as though to strike the Devil out of me.”  She added, “I don’t know that my choice this time was the answer, but it was the right answer for me at that moment.”

Other actions included the drawing of pentacles, spirals and other magical images in chalk and salt on the ground at the protesters feet. Dawn Marie said “One gentleman had started smudging and charging the circle he had drawn as well as the other symbols around him. The whole thing was a barrier of peace.”

Dawn Marie was impressed with the attendees’ reactions to the situation. She added, “They didn’t blow the smoke at the protesters or disrespect the protesters as much as pray to the Gods for protection on the festival.”

In retrospect, RavenHawk said that the situation was “very offensive” and “traumatizing.” She said, now, “I literally cannot seem to want to hear anyone speak to me or near me about Jesus. I am so turned off by it right now, and never noticed or paid attention to it before.”

Despite that experience, attendees universally reported that RavenHawk handled the situation with grace and was “cool and calm” despite the unwanted guests and the continual disruptions.They said that she did her best, communicating with officers and being available to attendees, vendors and presenters.

By the end of the day, nothing that was done by the organizers or festival participants provoked the group to leave their corner. However, at the same time, nothing the protesters did ended the festival. Although presenter voices needed to be louder and some teaching events had to be relocated, WitchsFestUSA 2016 was considered successful, ending with a rousing closing ritual.

Final-ritual (1)

“Making lemonade” at WitchsFest2016 [Photo Credit: C. Weber Hoover]

Dorsey said, “Overall it was only a minor distraction at an amazing event, run by some of the most competent and powerful people I know. ”

RavenHawk expressed her personal gratitude to everyone involved. In a public post, she wrote, “We sang songs of love and the Goddess, clapping our hands to our own beat… later on many drew sigils of pentagrams on the street before them.. witches took lemons and made lemonade. Refreshing.”

WitchsFest2016 [Photo Credit: Ron Frary]

WitchsFest2016 [Photo Credit: Ron Frary]

The sixth annual WitchsFestUSA is already in the planning stages and will be held July 15, 2017 at the same location.

[The Wild Hunt is pleased to welcome Tim Titus to our monthly team. Titus’ column will appear on the first Saturday of every month, beginning in August.  He will be sharing his own perspective on life, community and religion. Check out his full bio for more on his work and interests.]

The notions of freedom and personal spiritual authority are driving factors that bring people into the practice of a Pagan religion. Many modern Pagan practitioners are fleeing the older, more dogmatic and hierarchical forms of religion offered by the mainstream in favor of seeking a spiritual practice that speaks to them and is controlled by them.

Sacred Harvest Festival Brush Oak Grove

Sacred Harvest Festival Brush Oak Grove

In Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler specifically cites “freedom” as one of the major attractions that a Pagan path holds for modern people, writing that people often become Pagan “because they could be themselves and act as they choose, without what they felt were the medieval notions of sin and guilt” as well as a refusal to honor “rigid hierarchies and institutionalization” (23). In Paganism: An introduction to Earth-centered spirituality, authors Joyce and River Higginbotham specifically list “A pronounced religious individualism” (4) as a major tenet of their Pagan religion. Pagans, it would seem, seek their own paths rather than membership in any leader’s flock.

Yet leadership is still necessary, even for such an individualistic group of people. Although Pagans may not follow a shepherd’s crook as their ultimate beacon of hope nor any one sacred text as an infallible set of rules, we still look to those who have blazed trails to help us down the path that best suits our needs. If everyone hacked their own way through the woods, all the trees would be dead and the underbrush trampled.

[Courtesy Photo]

John Beckett [Courtesy Photo]

Druid and Patheos blogger John Beckett cites a number of roles that leadership still plays for the Pagan community. First, writes Beckett, is the more mainstream idea of “leaders as decision makers.” While there is no ultimate authority, “decisions have to be made based on an understanding of what the group wants to do.” This can be done through consensus or democratic process rather than an authoritarian style, but, “knowing which method to use for decisions is a key part of leadership,” explains Beckett.

Beyond that traditional leadership role, Beckett also sees Pagan leaders as teachers, managers, and visionaries. In the role of teacher, he emphasizes the necessity of strong communication skills. And, the role of manager is necessary because, while any group has a set of goals that drive it, “someone has to make sure all this gets done.” In the visionary role, leaders are needed to “articulate a vision and inspire people to do what’s necessary to make it a reality.”

Without leaders, our vision of the future can be difficult to see and even more difficult to attain. It is vital to the health of Pagan communities to produce strong, ethical people who are willing and able to perform these leadership functions.

Photo Credit: Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight [Courtesy Photo]

Now, it can be a daunting task to step out from the comfort of your own private spiritual practice and into the more public world of community leadership. However, many Pagan leaders have found it rewarding both personally and spiritually. To take those first steps into a new role, author and blogger Shauna Aura Knight advises a “model of apprenticeship and increasing responsibility” to help new community leaders get their feet wet. Knight regularly blogs and teaches a variety of leadership skills in the Chicago area. She further explains that this apprenticeship model can apply to anything from ritual facilitation to “event planning, leading meetings, and many other aspects” by “building the emerging leader’s confidence.”

Christopher Penczak, author and co-founder of the Temple of Witchcraft, says that this is how he became involved in leadership. “Each time I got the call to take on a little more responsibility,” he writes, “I thought that would be as far as it would go. Yet every few years, the call to go deeper would happen.” Although he did not seek a leadership role, “each time there was a need, and I found myself asked to step into a new and uncomfortable role.”

David Salisbury, an author and co-facilitator of The Firefly House in Washington, D.C. echoes this process, saying that, “I like to think that I tripped, stumbled, and fell into leadership.”

Photo Credit: Christopher Penczak

Christopher Penczak [Courtesy Photo]

Whether they intentionally sought out leadership or “stumbled” into it, there are certain personal qualities that help new leaders succeed. Knight believes that self-reflection is vital. “If you’re not actually looking into the mirror,” says Knight, “you’re going to keep making the same mistakes and wonder why your group’s falling apart and never realize your own role in it.”

Penczak states that communication skills are indispensable. “While you can’t please everyone all the time, and really can’t even try,” he says, “you have to understand what people are saying to you and be able to convey what you can and cannot do, and why.”  Alix Wright, the Lead Pisces Minister in the Temple of Witchcraft, agrees, noting that, “You can’t expect people to do what needs to be done, if you can’t tell them in a manner that they understand.” Wright adds that, “Since everybody hears and understands in different ways, you have to be able to communicate in a style and manner that matches each person you’re working with.”

Knight also recommends “the ability to hold paradox.” She writes, “Some issues are not just the binary of black and white, good or bad,” and explains that, “many leaders get stuck in being a know-it-all obsessed with being right, and that causes a lot of conflicts.” Salisbury echoes this when he advises young leaders to “remain humble and open to listening to your community.”

David Salisbury [Courtesy Photo]

There are always issues that can hold a new leader back. “Fear,” states Penczak, “is the biggest problem with new leaders.” This includes “Fear of losing control. Fear of not getting something done. Fear of not being worthy, and an effort to hide all these fears rather than acknowledge the process.”

Wright and Salisbury agree that doing too much at once is a major obstacle for new leaders. Wright emphasizes that, “One of the lessons I needed to learn was that it’s okay to say no, and when I do say yes, then it’s okay to ask for help and delegate.” Salisbury cautions against “trying to be everything to everyone all at once” because “burnout is a major leader-killer.”

Knight fears that, when new groups or events begin to form, those in charge “never stop to talk about what their goals are,” and she warns that, “most conflicts come from assumptions.” She advises “direct communication” to unravel those conflicts.

She also warns against another pitfall of leadership: “egotism.” “Many leaders desperately want to be ‘the person with the good idea,’ or ‘the one who’s right’ or, more broadly, ‘the savior.’ ” This, she says, leads to poor boundaries and poor choices, and it brings her back to stating her top quality for leadership: self-reflection.

“Know thyself.”

Perhaps this ancient wisdom is the single best piece of advice. As John Beckett stresses, in the end “leaders are servants.”  Leaders serve those whom they lead, providing them with spiritual experiences and practical direction, sometimes at their own expense. “Good leaders do that work,” concludes Beckett, “because they want to serve the Gods, their groups, the Pagan community, and the world at large.”

Our society often equates popularity with worth or with power. The status system created by celebrity culture is not something new, and it exists in many societies. One of the unfortunate side effects of living in a modern day celebrity culture is that it often separates people from the humanity of one another. We see this with celebrities within popular mainstream culture, and we also experience this in the much smaller segments of our own interconnected communities.

Dancing the maypole (courtesy EarthSpirit Community)

(Courtesy EarthSpirit Community)

Modern Pagan communities have their own definitions for popularity status. There are even varying categories that distinguish where people fall on the continuum.Author, Blogger, Ritualist, High Priest(ess), Artist, Musician, Academic or Leader. All of these are not only functional roles within the Pagan and modern Polytheist world, but they are also titles that come with expectations, a bit of status, and some relative privilege. The common use of the internet within Paganism makes it that much easier to know who people are, who is doing what, and where people will be at any given time. Articles go viral in our community, and it can be one of the most effective ways that someone’s name gets recognition.

What does this carry-over of culture mean in our community though? How does this kind of celebrity culture challenge true connection within such a small, overlapping grouping of individuals?

This past weekend several thousand Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists convened once again to the west coast for the annual PantheaCon convention. It is a time where people get to meet, learn and experience the teaching and the works of artists and leaders from around the country. This year’s con embodied many of the people, activities and things that most of us go there to experience. Author and Priest Devin Hunter explained this well in saying:

Pantheacon 2016 was powerful, drama free, and really fun. We were a bunch of Pagans and Witches getting together to share our work and support our common goals as modern mystics. My tradition, Black Rose, hosted a suite all weekend and we presented a deep ritual working on Friday night (The Sacrament of Hecate Triodia). I got to discuss some of the amazing things the Temple Of Witchcraft (Salem,NH) has been doing with their founders, meet fellow authors from all over the country, and host two amazing parties. Only at Pantheacon can you manage to do all of this! This was my fifth consecutive Pantheacon and my favorite!

This was very much like my own experience. It was a wonderful time of meeting, engaging and sharing with others that I would not normally have the opportunity to do so with. But in all the business of the weekend, I continued to think about how the many ways in which we support each other also serve as barriers to equity in voices and genuine relationships with those who are in different places on the continuum. Do we really get to know one another, or are we just familiar with what each person does, or what they stand for?

Lack of genuine connection with the people behind the names can lead to misconceptions about who they are and project unattainable expectations on these leaders, authors and artists. Social media and the workings of the internet make it easier to know a face or a name, but not the person behind those things.

Since I find that I have had to confront some misconceptions about myself, I thought it would be interesting to reach out to several different people within the community to see what misconceptions they often face from others.

Christopher Penczak

Christopher Penczak

Probably the biggest misconception about me and pretty much many of my peers is misconceptions of motivations and just because you are deemed successful what success looks like and how it translates into everyday life. When someone takes the leap to be an author, teacher, healing facilitator, reader, artist or pagan minister, it’s because we feel a call to it from a deep power. We feel a great love for the teachings, the gods and the community and often against our personal preferences and desires, feel guided to act upon it and do.

While there are great rewards and blessing, and I treasure my life and opportunities, there are also hardships.No one really enters this world to make easy money. I could make more in a regular office job with health insurance and vacation time. I’ve gotten a lot of freedom on one hand but miss out on time with friends and family and a lot of the regular security I crave. When folks are off and free I’m often working. Travel is fun but also gets tough when you are away a few times a month. It’s only through the many hats that I wear that I can make a full time vocation and it takes a lot of planning and juggling. When I switched from my first publisher to a larger publisher, I was accused of “selling out” and someone made comment that I bought a house with the advance for that book. The advance could barely cover a month’s rent. And my first publisher rejected the book while my new publisher was interested in a five book series with CDs. But those are critiques I hear directly and indirectly often about well know teachers and authors. – Christopher Penczak

Niki Whiting

Niki Whiting

If I am well known, then I assume it is because of co-founding and putting on Many Gods West. I think people assume that I am the sole person behind this event and that isn’t true! There are others working behind the scenes, but Syren Nagakyrie is a strong force keeping us on track. I have no desire to be the “voice” of polytheism – I don’t think that is even possible! I just want to encourage and support our communities, and by extension find the support and camaraderie I need as well.” – Niki Whiting

Well, I think that the biggest misconception wouldn’t be about me (people don’t really know me personally that much) but about our company. A lot of folks think that we are a) a coven/circle/commune-based community or b) a huge corporate behemoth. We are actually a small family business run entirely by me, my husband, and our kids. – Anne Newkirk Niven

Beverley Smith

Beverley Smith

I’d say that some of those who have known me as a long-time Druid priestess are surprised by my passion for social activism. They are somewhat taken aback to see that I’m very involved in civil and human rights causes. They are sometimes put off by the idea that I actually care. It always surprises and irritates me that many people prefer their spirituality easy and watered down: Witchcraft Lite. And because that’s how they roll, that’s how they expect me to approach my spirituality also.

I don’t believe that we separate our spiritual lives from other aspects of our reality. I don’t feel that sitting in sacred space, smudging, anointing myself with oils, meditating or participating in rituals are any more uplifting or inherently sacred than bringing awareness of injustice, standing in solidarity with the marginalized, and protesting in the street. My sacred space is the space I’m holding as we chant “no justice, no peace”. Nothing can be more sacred to me than to fight for a fellow human’s rights and stand up to evil together.

I am a Pagan. I am a priestess. I am a child, a daughter of the Earth and social justice is my creed. And yes, I am unabashedly, fearlessly, and unapologetically Black.- Beverley Smith

Devin Hunter

Devin Hunter

I think the largest misconception about me is that I am competitive. Competition has it’s time and place in life but I think being a comrade is much more important. I don’t view other practitioners, teachers, or leaders as competition, I view them as members of a big team of people who are on a journey with both shared and separate paths. I think those that know me know that I will bend over backwards to help when I can, especially when it comes to professional advice. I am a pretty simple guy, if you’re my friend I’m always there, if you’re someone I have never met from the internet, chances are I am not going to give you the same degree of energy as those I am close with. That doesn’t mean I view you as competition, I just don’t know you that well. – Devin Hunter

I’m an initiated Witch and a former First Officer of CoG. I am Pagan theurgist. I am a Thelemite, a member of Ordo Templi Orientis and ordained priestess of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. The connections between these systems make them compatible; I’ve dubbed this connection “Western Traditional Magic.” However the increasing tendency to pigeonhole practitioners leads people to know my work in only one silo. Witches don’t know my work in O.T.O., Thelemites have no idea I am a Witch. So it’s hard to talk to them about the whole of my work and how the several parts feed each other.

Brandy Williams

Brandy Williams

I’m also seeing the effects of ageism. “In your day that was true, but now…” We associate people with the era of their early adulthood and reject their continuing contributions at right about my age. The Pagan community has just as marked a tendency as the dominant culture to devalue accumulated experience. The local Suquamish tell me “we honor our elders” while Pagans tell me “we don’t need elders.” I find myself longing to be as honored by my own people as my neighbors are by theirs.

It’s especially frustrating to be dismissed as a “second wave feminist.” I’m quite proud that I was active in feminist community as a very young woman and that reforms I fought for have made women’s lives better for decades. Third wave feminism has taught me the importance of intersectionality, especially that that feminist progress depends on confronting racism. Presently the development of feminist thought is framed as generational antagonism –  third wave feminists are “daughters” of the second wave, fourth wave their “granddaughters”, rejecting the feminism of their “mothers” to form their own ideas. This framework hampers our ability to accumulate power over time by building on each other’s work. I don’t see the “waves” as generational but as a sequential development of critical thought structures. I am a feminist who will never stop learning! – Brandy Williams

If we had a chance to get to know one another without the filters of status, or the preconceived notions that we have about our various positions, what would we know about one another? What would we want others to know about us? Here are some answers from those in the community.

Anne Newkirk Niven

Anne Newkirk Niven

One thing for people to know about me as a person? I guess that I care deeply about our many communities, and I don’t have any kind of delusions of grandeur. Honestly, I don’t think of myself as a “well-known personality” at all. But I hope that the work we do is well-known, and, occasionally at least, well-regarded. – Anne Niven

In truth, despite my hard practiced ability to teach and lead ritual in front of groups, I’m a homebody and an introvert. I find big groups overwhelming. I like smaller quiet socialization. I can be social and in groups due to my musical performance and magickal training, but it takes great effort, so if I seem less friendly at the end of the night at an event it’s usually because I’m at the end of my energetic reserves and want some quiet alone time. People are often shocked about that but it’s true.” – Christopher Penczak

Lasara Firefox Allen

Lasara Firefox Allen

I have invisible illnesses. I don’t always have the ability to interact gracefully. Sometimes I just need to be able to chill out. I don’t want people to take it personally if I don’t have the bandwidth for an interaction. Something that will make me warm to someone is when they ask for consent for an interaction. Maybe even making sure there’s space to sit down if we are going to talk for more than a few minutes.

At PantheaCon this year my body was being very cranky and demanding. I had limited time out in the Con because I had to take so much downtime to maintain myself. That made it so that my time was very precious to me. I had to teach and take care of my other duties, and still fit in time with my family, and try to see some friends. Honestly I ended up missing out on most friend time, which bummed me out. – Lasara Firefox Allen

It is most important to me to be kind. My feminist and social justice work is about advocating for increased kindness. To be kind is not to be weak but to be fiercely honest and strong. When people talk to me I want them to feel that they are heard and respected. I celebrate the courage and success of the people around me. It makes me happiest to hear people say “you would be proud of me!” – Brandy Williams

I am really dedicated to helping people find their power, whatever it is. The drive to help others is behind everything that I do.” – Devin Hunter

My older brother is a dancer and grew up attending his classes, recitals, and competitions. I took classes as well and I think in a different version of my life I would have continued. Sometimes at night I think about the possible realities where I am the dancer, perfumer, lawyer, or biochemist; and reflect on how those experiences continue to inform my work.- Lou Florez

Lou Florez, invokes the ancestors, during the interfaith service. [photo credit Clark Sullivan]

Lou Florez invokes the ancestors during the interfaith service. [Photo Credit Clark Sullivan]

We operate in a world where profile pictures are one of our primary ways of identifying who we virtually rub shoulders with in the world. Likewise, we often see one another through the small lenses of roles, jobs and titles instead of human beings with much more in common than not. Our ability to decrease the multidimensional layers of humanity into a two-sided depiction of a person fits right into the fame game of modern society but does not allow for us to sustain meaningful connections.

When people see me in the hallways of a convention or read my article online, they may not know that I get anxious in front of crowds or when I publish an article, and that I am very driven but also very sensitive.

The persona of a person is often seen before the personality; sometimes a name travels further than we imagine. But our ability to see the person behind the name or the title might be the most magical thing we can do for one another.

 *   *   *

This column was made possible by the generous support of the members of Come As You Are (CAYA) Coven, an eclectic, open, drop-in Pagan community in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Terry Pratchett [Photo Credit: Myrmi, cc lic. via Wikimedia ]

Terry Pratchett [Photo Credit: Myrmi, cc lic. via Wikimedia ]

So much universe, and so little time” – Sir Terry Pratchett

It was announced yesterday that beloved fantasy author, Sir Terry Pratchett, had died from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Throughout his 44 year writing career, Sir Terry has touched the minds, spirits and imaginations of people all over the globe, becoming one of the U.K.’s most well-read authors and is, according to the BBC, second only to JK Rowling.

His work has become of particular importance to Pagans and Heathens, who have found within it a unique expression of their own practice and spirituality. Ashley Mortimer of the Doreen Valiente Foundation said:

Terry Pratchett has done several great services to the pagan community and the true Craft of the Wica: He helped the wider community see us as more include-able and accepted by poking good-spirited, perceptive, knowledgeable and downright genuine fun at us through his hilarious characters  – you know you are widely recognised when the writer trusts the general reader to be familiar enough with you to “get” the in-jokes about you. He also painted witches in a positive light with his witch characters always being the heroines and “good guys” of his stories and, best of all, he reminded us in the pagan and witchcraft community that, by seeing ourselves warmly through the eyes of others, we should never take ourselves too seriously.

Sir Terry Pratchett was born Terence David John Pratchett in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. As a child, he was fond of astronomy but was unable to qualify for such studies and, eventually, turned his imagination to science fiction novels and fantasy. He devoured both American and British classics. At the age of 13, Sir Terry published his very first story, called “The Hades Business,” in a school newspaper.

As an adult, he pursued a career in journalism. While working for the Bucks Free Press, Sir Terry wrote and published a number of short stories under the pseudonym “Uncle Jim.” However, it wasn’t until 1971 that he published his first book titled The Carpet People. He followed that up with The Dark Side of the Sun in 1976 and Strata in 1981.

The_Colour_of_Magic_(cover_art)Sir Terry is best known for his Discworld series, which he began in 1983 with the publication of the first book The Color of Magic. This series became so successful that, in 1987, he left his job at Central Electricity Generating Board to become a full time author. The rest, as they say, is history.*

In the early 1990s, as Sir Terry’s popularity reached new heights, the Pagan Federation decided to host its very first indoor conference. Having connected with that community, Sir Terry supported the effort. Vivianne and Chris Crowley recalled, “His talk left us with tears rolling down our faces – tears of mirth. He judged with humour our stunning array of witches competing for the ‘Best Magrat’ competition, impressed by the enthusiasm that we Pagans showed for bringing his characters to life. Evenly-handed, and ahead of his time, he awarded the prizes to two women and a man.”

The Crowleys added that Sir Terry was “officially agnostic” but “was one of the most Pagan-friendly of authors.They said, “He had enough familiarity with the Pagan community to create the kind of jokes that resonate with Pagans everywhere.” Over the years, the Crowleys got to know him better through the fantasy author circuit and found “his humour warmed up in the best possible way those long cold hours hanging around back stage between giving talks.”

More recently, in 2010, the Crowleys joined in Sir Terry’s “lobbying [efforts] at the Conservative Party Conference for the legalisation of assisted suicide.” They noted that his eloquence, sincerity, and authenticity won over many of the legislators.

Sir Terry was also known to have attended other U.K. Pagan events. Author and teacher Christopher Penczak remembers meeting him at Witchfest. He said, “I had not read his books yet, so I really didn’t appreciate the moment.” But Penczak remembers the author as being very friendly and nice to all the presenters at the event.

Penczak eventually did read the novels and said, “I feel like his stories gave me more insight about Witchcraft, the spirit of magick, coven dynamics, responsibility, ego, dealing with the public, humor, and the role of service of the Witch more than most of my occult books. His insights were brilliant.”

2012 [© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons]

2012 [© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons]

Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Sir Terry continued to write as many as 3 novels a year. The Discworld series eventually contained 41 books and a number of related short stories. According to his website, he has sold over 70 million books, translated into 37 languages.

Along with receiving many literary awards, Sir Terry was appointed ‘Officer of the Order of the British Empire’ for his work. In 2008, he was knighted with a sword that he himself forged. As noted by The Independent, Sir Terry added what he called magical touches to the metal and, then, kept it secret until the event. He was worried about the authorities and was quoted as saying, “It annoys me that knights aren’t allowed to carry their swords…That would be knife crime.”

In 2007, Sir Terry was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s Disease after what was assumed to be a stroke. The Crowleys said, “Terry handled his illness with enormous dignity and courage.” According to the BBC, it was his writing that kept his spirits up and kept him going as his health declined. At least five of the Discworld books were written and published after the diagnoses.

Sir Terry’s death was announced yesterday via Twitter in a style that recalled his work.

 
The capital letters recall the way Death, the character, speaks in his novels.
 


It was reported that he died in his sleep with his cat and his family by his side.

Since the announcement, many Pagans and Heathens have joined the millions of other fans who are now mourning the loss of a great writer and kindred spirit. Ashley Mortimer of the Doreen Valiente Foundation said, “Terry Pratchett proved that the principles of mirth and reverence are perfect partners in paganism, the Craft and indeed wider human culture. His untimely passing is a great sadness to all of us.”

Christopher Penczak said, “I’m very saddened by our loss of Terry Pratchett … While not being a Witchcraft teacher, he was certainly a teacher of Witchcraft, at least of a healthy Witchcraft culture, including the many things I think are important to keep in mind in our practices and community.”

The Crowleys said, “Terry was a true magician, not in the sense of being a practitioner of the Art Magickal, but in his ability to conjure up new worlds, to weave a spell with his words, and beyond the wonderful humour of his writing, to evoke profound ideas that struck chords with the postmodern religious imagination.”

In memory of Sir Terry, people have been posting their favorite quotes.The Doreen Valiente Foundation offered this one:

Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.

The Crowleys shared this:

It was a place where witches met. 
Tonight a fire gleamed on the very crest of the hill. Dark figures moved in the flickering light. 
The moon coasted across a lacework of clouds. 
Finally a tall, pointy-hatted figure said, `You mean everyone brought potato salad?

Finally, there is this one:

If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story

What is remembered, lives!

*   *   *

*Note: Biographical data taken from multiple sources, including www.famousauthors.org.

btw2015logo-tshirt-3_med-2HUNT VALLEY, MARYLAND –When at any single Pagan conference with a robust lineup of workshops, panels, and rituals, a participant might find it difficult to choose what to attend and what to pass on. When two conferences join forces, those decisions become, at very least, four times as difficult to make. Such was the experience for 3-400 people who attended the combined Sacred Space and Between the Worlds conference in Maryland this past weekend.

These two events became one this year through a combination of cooperation and astrology. Sacred Space is an annual conference which is held around this time. Between the Worlds — not to be confused with an identically-named Midwest spiritual event — is scheduled astrologically, and like Sacred Space, takes place on the mid-Atlantic seaboard. This year, the stars aligned so that the two conferences would be in competition for attendees, speakers, and even organizers, as they have long had at least one board member in common. Instead of cannibalizing resources, the decision was made to combine the two into one whopper of an experience.

Between the Worlds won’t happen again until 2020, and it’s unlikely to ever overlap with Sacred Space again. The events have some common elements, which made the mashup manageable. Both have highly selective processes for choosing teachers, and require the content to be intermediate to advanced. Between the Worlds has handpicked teachers, while Sacred Space combines invited headliners with a proposal process designed to highlight local talent for a wider audience.

A harsh winter storm delayed many arrivals on Thursday. However, with only a few minor scheduling adjustments, the conference kept humming along. Friday and Saturday, the two full days, started with a plenary session during which a panel discussed a single topic before the bulk of the attendees. Friday’s topic was “alliances with the spirit world.” On Saturday a different panel discussed the nurturing spiritual communities.

Each panel was nearly two hours long, with a combination of debate, insight, and wit that highlighted the different perspectives of the panelists. Listening to Archdruid Kirk Thomas and respected author Diana Paxson debate why Odin seems intent on recruiting followers captured the Friday audience’s attention. Is he gathering fighters for Ragnarok, or trying to forestall it?

Ivo Dominguez, Jr, Michael Smith, and James Welch at the gala

The next morning’s discussion on community was equally as engaging. Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki explained that for all the dysfunction in American Pagan communities, they are far more evolved than what she is familiar with in England, where, “we Brits keep a stiff upper lip,” and don’t see much value in community at all. After identifying herself as the oldest person there, Ashcroft-Nowicki said, “I’m here to learn.”

Just as the days began with a single big session, they ended with the same, but those endings couldn’t have been more different. According to Sacred Space organizer Gwendolyn Reece, both Friday’s main ritual and Saturday’s gala were largely Between the Worlds in origin. Sacred Space does not have a large, main ritual at all, and of the gala, she remarked, “Between the Worlds does that better,” in part, because it costs extra to attend, allowing for live entertainment and plenty of food.

The entertainment came in the form of Tuatha Dea, a band that set the tone by musically calling the quarters and raising the energy in the room to a pitch that was joyous, but not so intense as to be overwhelming. In addition to a deep book of original and lively tunes, this band was able to perform everything from “Whiskey in the Jar” to “White Rabbit” with panache and flair. Their work complemented a silent auction to benefit the New Alexandrian Library, which included an astounding variety of items ranging from original art to gift baskets themed around popular Pagan holidays to ritual jewelry of exquisite beauty.

The main ritual, held Friday night, was a very different kind of energy; one that highlighted the strengths of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. Attendees were encouraged to participate in a preparatory class, during which chants were taught and the layout of the ritual was explained through guided meditation.

The ritual itself began on time, characteristic of an organizational decision to reject “Pagan standard time” out of hand, with the doors being sealed against latecomers. The theme was one of personal transformation as expressed by the “Witch’s Pyramid.” It was built on the astrological significance of the event, which was scheduled during the seventh of a rare series of Pluto-Uranus squares that represent the deep transformation of Pluto coming together with the explosive change represented by Uranus. While much time was spent laying those foundations, when the energy did start flowing, the call to move beyond one’s comfort zone and act for change in the world was unmistakable. By the time the seals upon the ritual gates were opened, this energy could be seen burning in many an eye.

Altars at Sacred Space.

Altars at Sacred Space.

But the choices beyond those big sessions are always difficult. Preparing for possession or oracular work with Diana Paxson? The sorcerer’s tongue or journeying to the phosphorous grove with Christopher Penczak? Deepening understanding of the witch’s pyramid with Ashcroft-Nowicki, or Ivo Dominguez, Jr?

Monika Lonely Coyote tackled the difficult question of differentiating mental illness and spiritual experience in one session, and how to act as a psychopomp for a dying individual in another. There were classes on hexes, breaking curses, alchemy of breath and alchemy of sex. Kirk Thomas offered a class on sacred gifts, which discussed reciprocity with the gods and its relationship to hospitality in ancient cultures ranging from the Greek to the Irish. Byron Ballard’s “Hillfolks Hoodoo” couldn’t have been more different than T. Thorn Coyle’s idea of “Practical Magic.”  However, each teacher brought deep wisdom and displayed a mastery of the craft. Dorothy Morrison offered a class on money magic that was both practical and earthy. In short, when all the choices are beyond “Grounding 101,” every decision is a difficult one to make, an opportunity cost by which one piece of knowledge is gained, and another left behind.

In that way, this idea is similar to a point that Morrison made about magic, and why she does not include “an it harm none” in her spells. She noted that all magic comes at a price.

“If you work a spell to get a job interview, someone else’s resume fell into the trash,” Morrison said. Requiring that a spell harm no one takes away its power, she observed; better to understand that no magic is without consequence. Or, as Coyle put it at one point, “You have to own it.” That’s the kind of lesson taught at this conference: very little in the world is black and white, and the burden of the adept who walks in sacred space is to take responsibility for the many gradations between the worlds.

On Dec. 4, Crystal Blanton, a Wild Hunt columnist, author, Priestess and activist, issued a challenge to the Pagan community, as a whole, after noticing “the silence of the Pagan organizations in light of recent unrest.” She said, “This is an opportunity to stand up and support the people of color within the Pagan community … Tonight, I am saying to the Pagan community, I see you. The question is, do you SEE us?”

 

That single Facebook post was a catalyst for an avalanche of response from individuals, small groups and organizations across the nation. Over the past six days nearly 50 public statements and articles have appeared in blogs, websites and Facebook status updates, making this, quite possibly, a historic moment of unprecedented solidarity. Moreover, the responses aren’t limited to the so-called Pagan community. Responses have come from Heathen organizations and Polytheists, as well as a large variety of Pagans from a diversity of traditions.

“The response of many organizations and leaders over the last week has shown something we haven’t really seen before in our community; a willingness to speak up and speak out about the needs of Black people and ethnic minorities,” Crystal said, expressing her surprise.

Due to the number of reactions, it is impossible to share in detail each and every statement or article. It is even more difficult to encapsulate the grief, anger, frustrations, power, hope and even confusion expressed in many of these statements. A full list is included at the bottom. Of course, it is important to also remember that this list is not comprehensive. More statements and discussions are published every day.

Before Blanton issued her call-to-action, several Pagans had already made public statements on the #blacklivesmatter national protest campaign On Nov. 25, T.Thorn Coyle, who wrote an “Open Letter to White America.” In that statement, Coyle called for empathy and compassion, saying, “I pray that we remember: We are responsible for one another’s well-being.” On Nov. 29, Peter Dybing posted a photo of himself holding up sign that read, “White Privliege is real. Stay calm and listen.” Like Thorn, he was speaking to white Americans, asking them to stay silent and listen to those oppressed.

[Courtesy Photo]

Following Dybing’s lead, author Christopher Penczak also posted a photo of himself holding the same sign. He issued a heartfelt statement, saying:

I have tried to take the advice of a friend who said one of the best things we could do, particularly those of us in a place of privilege, is to listen …  I know sometimes I don’t want to, but its so important, particularly at this time. So I thank Peter Dybing for asking me and others to let people know that listening while keeping calm in uncomfortable situations is absolutely necessary at this time. Blessed be.

These statements came shortly after the Ferguson grand jury decision. However, after that announcement was made, other similar incidents made headlines, including the choking death of Eric Garner in New York City and the shooting death of Tamir Rice in Ohio. At that point, the tone of the public conversation changed from simply “stay silent” to “act and acknowledge.” Additionally, the messages, which were originally aimed predominately at white Pagans, also changed direction. This wake-up, so to speak, was expressed by Jenya T. Beachy, who wrote in a blog post, “I’ve fallen prey to the ‘nothing is right to say so say nothing’ theme.”

Crystal2014

Crystal Blanton [Courtesy Photo]

After Blanton’s facebook post, most of the first responses came from the blogging world. Similar to Beachy, the writers opened up discussions of the issues, as each of them personally grappled with the reality of the national crisis. Not all of these posts were specifically in response to Blanton’s challenge, but all deal with the situation head-on. Polytheist blogger Galina Krasskova  discusses her obligation, and that of other white citizens, to speak out. Drawing from her religious practice, she wrote that we have an “ancestral obligation to take a stand against racism.”

Other bloggers and writers who responded include Shauna Aura Knight, Jason Mankey, Anomalous Thracian, Sarah Sadie, John Beckett, Kathy Nance, Rhyd Wildermuth, Peter Dybing and Tim Titus. Patheos Pagan Channel has posted a static link list of all posts that reflect on Ferguson and Police Brutality.

Some of the topics raised within these varied articles include white privliege (e.g., Tim Titus and Anomalous Thracian), how it all relates to Paganism (e.g., Jason Mankey and Shauna Aura Knight), and the need for decisive action (e.g., Peter Dybing). Some bloggers, like Tom Swiss at The Zen Pagan, also incorporate a discussion of spirituality. Swiss wrote, “If you’re not outraged by all this, you’re not paying attention.” He goes on to say, “Buddhism realizes the place of wrath, and assigns significant deities to its proper function — the “wrathful deities.”

In addition to bloggers, there was a flood of solidarity statements from individuals and leaders (e.g., Ivo Dominguez, Patrick McCollum, Starhawk); from small groups (e.g., CAYA coven, Circle of Ancestral Magic, Bone and Briar, Vanic Conspiracy) and from national organizations (e.g., Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Circle Sanctuary, Covenant of the Goddess, Ár nDraíocht Fein, Aquarian Tabernacle Church, Cherry Hill SeminaryThe Pantheon Foundation and Heathens Against Racism).

Some of these statements were specifically meant as calls-to-action in support of the public protests around the nation. The Coru Cathubodua Priesthood used powerful language saying, in part:

We are angry … We want justice … We who are the priesthood and war band dedicated to the Morrigan stand and take our place in the streets as allies to justice.”

While they used strong language in their call to action, the Priesthood also said, “We have hope.”

Similar to the Priesthood, Free Cascadia Witchcamp organizers used potent language saying, “We will not be complicit through silence.” They added, “We grieve the irretrievable loss of integrity for all those who participate in, and uphold structural opppression, and we grieve the tragedy of those impacted by it.”

Not everyone used forceful words in their calls for action. The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) asked its membership and friends to “act as partners in the work to create more justice in our broader communities.” They added, “None of us can be truly safe or free when some lives have value and others don’t.” Other similar calls to action, both strongly worded or not, came from Bone & Briar in Pennsylvania, Solar Cross in California, CAYA coven, Patrick McCollum, Cherry Hill Seminary, and others.

Some goups focused their words on recognition and awareness. These statements were in direct response to Blanton’s statement “Do you see us?” In these public expressions, organizations and groups acknowledged bearing witness to injustice and are essentially saying, “We see you.”

This was well-expressed on Polytheist.com, where representatives stated, “We see the harm. We see the fear and the hatred. We see the injustice … Together, we stand for something better.” Circle of Ancestral Magic, Blanton’s own coven, wrote, “We say this most of all to the people most affected by these atrocities. We see you. We hear you, and honor your lived experiences.” Other similar treatments were made by groups such as Vanic Conspiracy and Immanion Press.

Rather than make a comment, Circle Santuary chose a different route. It opened up its regular Tuesday night Circle podcast to host a round-table discussion on racial equality. In retrospect, Rev. Selena Fox said:

Circle Sanctuary and the Lady Liberty League are committed to working for a world with freedom, equality, liberty and justice for all, and where people can live in harmony with one another and with the greater circle of nature of which we are all a part.  It is our hope that this solution-focused Pagan community conversation can enhance awareness, inspire considerate communications and encourage effective, collaborative actions to help manifest racial equality

In a statement for Ár nDraíocht Fein (ADF), Rev. Kirk Thomas ended on a spiritual note saying, “We must all look deeply inside ourselves to root out prejudices we have been raised with that linger in the dark. Only then can injustice end. Only then may we all live in peace.”

Several organizations, due to internal processes and the distance between its board members, were unable to issue their statements in time for publication, but told The Wild Hunt that they were currently working on words. These organizations included The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, The Officers of Avalon and The Troth.

Lou Florez

Lou Florez

In response to all this activity Lou Florez, a spiritual counselor, rootworker, Orisha priest, told The Wild Hunt,

I wish I could say that these acts of violence, racism, aggression, and brutality on black bodies were rare, but unfortunately, they are not. These experiences are the lived reality for a vast majority of People of Color. While it is very touching to see the outpouring of support, discussion and commitments, I see this as just the beginning of a first step. As witches, Pagans, magicians, conjurers, and clergy we are mandated to transform the world as we transform ourselves. It’s time to awaken to the ramifications and reality of power, privilege and oppression in our circles, and communities.

Turning back to Blanton, we asked what she thought of this flurry of reaction to her Facebook comment, as well as the opening up of conversations and the calls to action. She said, with a hopeful tone, “I am so humbled to see such clear, fast and strong responses and it renews my hope that we might be able to actually do something together with that energy in our community.”

*   *   *

The following is a list of the public (only) statements, posts and articles that were issued since Dec. 4 and referenced above. This is not an exhaustive list and more statements will undoubtedly surface over the days to come.

Coru Cathubodu

Bone and Briar

Free Cascadia Witch Camp

Immanion Press

The Family of the Forge in the Forest

The Firefly House

Shauna Aura Knight

Hexenfest and Pandemonaeon

Vanic Conspiracy

Heathens United Against Racism

Polytheist.com

The Troth

CAYA Coven

Solar Cross

Anomalous Thracian

Starhawk

Pantheon

ADF

Circle Sanctuary

CUUPS

Peter Dybing

T. Thorn Coyle

Jason Mankey

Courtney Weber

Patrick McCollum

Officers of Avalon

Jenya T. Beachy

The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel

Covenant of the Goddess

Christopher Penczak

Tea & Chanting Sangha/Dharma Pagans

Lykeia

Galina Krasskova

Cherry Hill Seminary

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Tim Titus

Lydia Crabtree

John Beckett

Rhyd Wildermuth

Kathy Nance

Tom Swiss

Circle of Ancestral Magic

Sarah Sadie

Aquarian Tabernacle Church

The Pantheon Foundation

 

[On a weekly basis, we bring you the news and issues that affect Pagan and Heathen communities around the world. If you value our work, please consider donating to our fall fund drive today. Bringing you important news and stories, like the one below, is what we love to do. Your support makes it possible for us to continue. Thank you very much.]

 

LC BookSeventeen years after the release of her last book, Laurie Cabot has returned to the world of publishing with a new title called Laurie Cabot’s Book of Spells and Enchantments. Produced by Copper Cauldron Publishing, her new book details the “nuts and bolts” of spell creation, including some of the recipes, rituals and secrets contained within her own family grimoire. In the book, Cabot also discusses the place of magic in life, a Witch’s apothecary, divine power and her own spell-making tips for both the beginner and lifetime practitioner.

Laurie Cabot is arguably one of the most well-known witches in contemporary American culture, outside of Pagan circles. In the 1970s, Governor Michael Dukakis honored her with the title “The Official Witch of Salem,” a name she accepted proudly.

Throughout much of her magical life, Cabot has owned and operated witchcraft stores in the historic New England town of Salem. Through those stores, she was able to do what she loved most: sharing the beauty, reality and power of Witchcraft. In 1973, Cabot opened her very first store, called The Witch Shoppe, and, as it turned out, it was one of the very first stores of its kind in the United States. At one point, she also owned the well-known Crow Haven Corner and, more recently, The Cat, Crow and Crown, which was eventually renamed The Official Witch Shoppe.

In 2012, at the age of 79 years, Cabot announced that she was finally closing the doors of the Shoppe. She explained to The Boston Globe, “The Witch City has dipped to the point where a brick-and-mortar store is no longer sustainable.” Despite the downward turn in business at its physical location, the store has maintained an online presence to this day.

During the 1990s, Cabot wrote and published four books including, The Power of the Witch (1989), Love Magic (1992), Celebrate the Earth (1994) and The Witch in Every Woman (1997). Writing books became another way for her to share the magic and joy of Witchcraft with new audiences and new seekers. However, after publication of the last book, she turned her attention away from writing to focus on other pursuits and didn’t publish again … until now.

We talked with Laurie Cabot about her new book, the current state of Witchcraft in today’s society and her future projects. At 81 years of age, she was enthusiastic to answer our questions and share her thoughts. Her passion for teaching and for the art of Witchcraft was very evident in her voice as she answered the questions. Please note that the conversation was not recorded and, therefore, will not be presented in a traditional interview format. 

After a 17 year hiatus, why suddenly return to print?

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

When answering this question, Cabot was very candid. She explained that writing books had become very cumbersome. She is not a computer user and, therefore, her books were all written long-hand with paper and pen in the old-fashion way. The task was enormous and, in 1997, she didn’t want to devote the time and energy into producing another one. Then, several years ago, she finally agreed to produce a new spell book because, as she said, “I had a wonderful person who could type as fast as I could talk.”

That person was Christopher Penczak. In the forward of the book he says:

…on a Beltane evening, while discussing the state of publishing, I suggested that she release a spell book because she loved sharing the majick. She agreed, but asked for my help in organizing it, along with her daughter Penny, and thus the seeds of the book you hold now in your hands were planted.

Cabot added that Penczak having his own publishing company, Copper Cauldron Publishing, “made it easy.” After the process was complete, she said, “I could have done three volumes because we have collected and created spells for over 50 years. But I wanted to do something that was easily understandable to all people.” The result of that collaborative work is this new book – a “how to” guide to spell making born from sixty years of Cabot magic.

The book is aimed at a general readership; not only Witches or magical practitioners. Why?

Cabot said, “There’s a little witch in everyone.” She believes that the science of magic is “what is vital” and, as such, “can be used by anyone.” She added, “Quantum physics tells us what we are doing is real.”

In the book’s introduction, Cabot says:

You don’t have to be a Witch to borrow majick. Some think you do, but I say absolutely not. Anyone can use majick. We teach the science and art of Witchcraft separate from religion, so you can be a scientific Witch. You can be an artful Witch too. And you do not have to practice the religion at all.

She went on to describe how she dervived at such a science-focused understanding of Witchcraft. She said that it was the “finding of science” within the spiritual experience that became so important to her development. As a child she had many psychic experiences, after which her father would always say, “There has to be a science behind it.” She said that it was those conversations that “led [her] in search of that.”

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Why the “j” in majick?

In the book, Cabot uses the term “majick” rather than magic or the popular magick. When asked what the spelling difference meant to her, she simply said that a “j” is used in place of a “g” to identify her particular system of Witchcraft with its focus on science. She has been using this spelling for over a decade.

What major observations have you made concerning the changes, beneficial or otherwise, in the practice of Witchcraft today as compared to past decades? 

When answering this question, Cabot focused on the retail experience, which has dominated much of her “majical” life. When she opened The Witch Shoppe in 1973, there were no witches anywhere. She said that the store was the only place where people could find a witch. Now, there are stores everywhere.

She said that, unfortunately, today, “it seems that people open stores to become rich.” She said, “You don’t become rich with one store. It may pay for the mortgage but you won’t be rich.”

Cabot also observed that the focus of modern Witchcraft stores has changed. In opening any store, her intent was always to “help people understand that Witchcraft was real.” She wanted to teach and share her passion. All her products, including incenses, spells, potions and oils, were handmade. She said, “I know the ingredients. I know how to make them real.” The store was an experience for the buyer that she created from her experience as a Witch.

Now, most metaphysical shops get their products from vendors. She laments this system saying, “the spells may not work. They may not have anything to do with the right energy.” This commercialization of the Witchcraft industry saddens her, and she added that people just seem to be “jumping on the band-wagon.” However, Cabot did acknowledge that the increase in stores has significantly helped with the sharing of magical practices, making them more widely accepted.

Cabot with Chris Levasseur outside Enchantment in Salem [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Cabot with Chris Levasseur outside Enchantment in Salem [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

As awareness has grown over the years, Cabot has noticed a recent influx in the number of international students coming to her classes. She said that, just last week, 6 Brazilians flew to Salem in order to attended her Witchcraft 101 class at Salem’s magickal store, Enchanted. In addition, her online classes have been attracting an international audience. She said, “They want to learn the science,” which she thinks is “wonderful.”

What would you say is the most important legacy or message that you would like to leave for future generations, Pagans or not, as the Official Witch of Salem?

Cabot said, “I would like everyone to know that magic is real.” She said that there has been “so much propaganda.” She explained that, as children, we all know in our hearts that magic exists but we are told by adults that it is just imaginary. But it does.

She also wants more people to accept and learn the scientific aspects of magic. She said, “I want it to be used to better the world.” Then she added, “Isn’t that what the world needs right now?  A little magic.”

One would be hard pressed to argue that point.

Now that the book is finished and due to be released in digital and paperback formats later this month, what other projects are on the horizon?

Along with her teaching at Enchanted, Cabot has several new projects in the works. She enthusiastically shared that she is working on her memoirs. Although she does not have a time frame for it’s completion and release, it will be published by Copper Cauldron Publishing with the help of Christopher Penczak.

Cabot is also developing a Tarot Deck, one that she hopes to release in the spring of 2015. She said that it does not have a name yet, but the deck will be focused, as one might expect, on scientific and the numeric spirit in the occult system.

As the conversation ended, Cabot added, “I’m using my time carefully now. I want to make sure that I leave something for people to gain knowledge. I don’t know everything. There are people that know far more.” But what Laurie Cabot does know, she wants to share in ways that will foster a better and deeper understanding of the self, the outside world and of the art of Witchcraft.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

The Temple of Flux, 2010 (Rebecca Anders, Jessica Hobbs, Peter Kimelman and Crew)

The Temple of Flux, 2010 (Rebecca Anders, Jessica Hobbs, Peter Kimelman and Crew)

  • HuffPo Religion looks at 10 years of Burning Man temples, and quote scholar and friend-of-The Wild Hunt Lee Gilmore, author of “Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man.” Quote: “Burning Man is that wild, uproarious desert party that hits the Nevada desert every August. But to call it a party alone is to miss the critical spiritual dimension that grounds much of the festivities. This spiritual dimension is perhaps best characterized by the temple artists and architects build every year on the playa. The tradition began in 2000 with artists David Best and Jack Haye’s Temple of Mind. The temple took on greater significance after one of Best’s friends passed away weeks before the festival, setting the tone for what would become an annual space of memorial and contemplation on the playa, or what author and religion professor Lee Gilmore calls the ‘sacred heart of Black Rock City.’ (Black Rock City or BRC refers to the temporary town that Burning Man becomes every year.)”
  • Religion News Service analyzes the trend of the millennial generation abandoning formal religious affiliation in large numbers. Quote: “Any replacement for religious membership will have to match the moral power of religious narratives. It is always hard to keep going with civic and political work; persistence is a lot easier if you see yourself connected to a permanent community with a prophetic vision of the future. Religions also appeal to deep moral commitments. While you do not have to be religious to be moral, being a good citizen requires commitments to other people — and perhaps to nature — as intrinsically valuable. Those commitments do not come from science or reason. In fact, science suggests that people are dramatically unequal and that nature is fully exploitable. So responsible people develop ‘faith-based’ commitments. Secular equivalents must be at least as powerful.”
  • The U.S. Army has approved “Humanist” as a religious preference for members within their ranks. Quote: “Lt. Col. Sunset R. Belinsky, an Army spokeswoman, said Tuesday (April 22) that the “preference code for humanist” became effective April 12 for all members of the Army. In practical terms, the change means that humanists could face fewer hurdles in trying to organize within the ranks; military brass would have better information to aid in planning a deceased soldier’s funeral; and it could lay the groundwork for eventually adding humanist chaplains. The change comes against a backdrop of persistent claims from atheists and other nonbelievers that the military is dominated by a Christian culture that is often hostile to unbelief.” At the ACLU, Major Ray Bradley says that Army Humanists are “no longer invisible.” Pagan faiths are still engaged in this process, working to expand beyond the handful of options currently available (which includes “Wicca” and “The Troth”).
  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes about why myth matters for the Intercollegiate Review. Quote: “Against all odds, through popular culture, myth is more potent and omnipresent in modern society than anyone could have imagined. Why? Because in an increasingly global society, myth is a universal language. Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Spiderman and Batman transcend cultural divides. Mythic heroes in movies communicate universal values in their fight against evil. In a culture where the abstract theories of academics are out of touch and meaningless, stories communicate more effectively and more universally. Furthermore, in an increasingly irreligious age, mythical movies and literature carry the truths that religion had traditionally conveyed.” Despite Fr. Longenecker’s theologically conservative brand of Catholicism, I think there are some interesting points raised here that some of my readers might appreciate.
  • Center-left American think tank the Brookings Institution has published a new report on economic justice and the future of “religious progressives.” Quote: “Religious voices will remain indispensable to movements on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, and middle-class Americans. The authors point to specific opportunities the progressive religious movement can act on.” Michelle Boorstein at The Washington Post notes that demographic shifts might bring about a bright future for left-leaning religious organizations. Quote: “The report sees perhaps a bright future for the religious left. One reason is demographics. A far bigger share of younger Americans call themselves religious progressives (34 percent of those ages 18 to 33) than religious conservatives (16 percent of the same group). Another is the model offered by the civil rights movement, which the report says ‘interwove religious and civic themes’. . . and was so successful because it was so ecumenical. We may be at such a moment, the report argues.”
Photo: VICE / Phil Clarke Hill

Photo: VICE / Phil Clarke Hill

  • VICE says that Santeria is growing in visibility and popularity in Cuba now policies regarding religion in that country have been relaxed. Quote: “The religion owes its continued existence over the centuries to the prevalence of the oral tradition, with believers passing on, preserving, and nurturing its secrets through countless generations. Today, Santeria has emerged from the shadows of a Cuban society now at liberty to practice religion, and is witnessing not only an increase of acceptance but also of popularity.”
  • The Economist explains how European politics are different than American politics, that there isn’t a “religious right” per se, but there are a number of “identity politics” camps that must be appeased if you want to win elections. Quote: “It is hard for European politicians to build a career by claiming the traditionalist ground; they would generally lose more votes than they would gain. What does exist in Europe is the politics of identity, including religious identity. In this area Europe’s parties and politicians always think carefully about the signals they send and getting it right or wrong has consequences. That’s a helpful way to see David Cameron’s re-embrace of the Anglican church.”
  • Barbara Falconer Newhall at The Huffington Post reviews Patricia Monaghan’s posthumous work, the new edition of her “Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines.” Quote: “I wish I had known Patricia Monaghan. She died a year and a half ago after a rich life as a poet, author, goddess scholar, and pioneer and mentor in the contemporary women’s spirituality movement. She was an academic, yes, but also a hands-on kind of woman. According to her husband, she was as concerned about the temperature of her root cellar as she was with the depth of her research. That research is stunningly thorough. I have in my hands the posthumously released revised edition of her Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. The first, very popular, edition was published in 1979. This beautiful, fat — in a good way — expanded version tells the stories of more than 1,000 ancient goddesses and heroines from such far-flung corners of the earth as Mongolia, Benin, Tierra del Fuego and Wisconsin.”
  • Jackson Free Press has an article focusing on Pagan author and teacher Chris Penczak. Quote: “While the Mississippi Legislature was polishing its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which opponents say opens doors to legal discrimination for religious reasons), Christopher Penczak and other believers of a mostly misunderstood and reviled faith—Wicca—planned a workshop. Penczak, 40, is one of the founders of the Temple of Witchcraft in New Hampshire. From its humble roots as a magickal training and personal growth system, the temple has become a formal tradition of Witchcraft.”
  • The New York Times Magazine spotlights The Dark Mountain Project. Quote: “A man wearing a stag mask bounded into the clearing and shouted: ‘Come! Let’s play!’ The crowd broke up. Some headed for bed. A majority headed for the woods, to a makeshift stage that had been blocked off with hay bales and covered by an enormous nylon parachute. There they danced, sang, laughed, barked, growled, hooted, mooed, bleated and meowed, forming a kind of atavistic, improvisatory choir. Deep into the night, you could hear them from your tent, shifting every few minutes from sound to sound, animal to animal and mood to mood. […]  The Dark Mountain Project was founded in 2009. From the start, it has been difficult to pin down — even for its members. If you ask a representative of the Sierra Club to describe his organization, he will say that it promotes responsible use of the earth’s resources. When you ask Kingsnorth about Dark Mountain, he speaks of mourning, grief and despair. We are living, he says, through the ‘age of ecocide,’ and like a long-dazed widower, we are finally becoming sensible to the magnitude of our loss, which it is our duty to face.”

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these we may expand into longer posts as needed.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

AncestorsCoverThe Temple of Witchcraft and Copper Cauldron Publishing have announced the publication of a new anthology title: Ancestors of the Craft: The Lives and Lessons of Our Magickal Elders. First copies of the book were made available at the Temple’s annual Yule ritual, and will soon be made available at Amazon.com. Retailers can order copies through Copper Cauldron Publishing. Quote: “Modern pagans are heirs to a rich confluence of traditions from numerous pioneers in the realms of Spirit who have passed beyond the Veil. Ancestors of the Craft honors these ancestors, some widely known, others obscure, but no less deserving. A wide range of authors have contributed looks at important figures and elders in the history of the modern Witchcraft and Neo-pagan movements, some four dozen in all […] Authors include Jimahl di Fiosa (Talk to Me), Storm Faerywolf (The Stars Within the Earth), Elizabeth Guerra (Stewart Farrar: Writer On A Broomstick), Raven Grimassi (The Cauldron of Memory, Old World Witchcraft), Galina Krasskova (Exploring the Northern Tradition), Deborah Lipp (The Elements of Ritual), Shani Oates (Tubelo’s Green Fire), Gede Parma (Spirited), Christopher Penczak (The Temple of Witchcraft, The Mighty Dead), Matthew Sawicki (Witch and Famous), Kala Trobe (The Witch’s Guide to Life), and many more.” Should be an interesting read!

Grey_School_of_Wizardry_-_crestThe Grey School of Wizardry has opened a virtual world campus incorporating the Second Life platform as a part of its online magickal education program. “The implementation of a virtual campus was driven by student feedback and demonstrates our commitment to provide an engaging, inspiring learning environment for the magickally-minded. It provides us with new ways to share our knowledge, and offers a more personal, interactive, and magical setting for our students,” said Stacey Aaran Sherwood, Campus Director at the Grey School of Wizardry. “This new program is supplementary and purely voluntary, and does not in any way alter the web-based system of instruction that our faculty and students are accustomed to using.” Students who elect to enroll in the optional program benefit from real-time interaction with participating teachers and fellow students.  The Grey School of Wizardry is a tax exempt organization, and was founded in 2004 by Oberon Zell, a founder of the Church of All Worlds. You can read the entire press release, here.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

I’ve mentioned Stonehenge’s new visitors center a couple times now, looking at what it wants to transmit to visitors of the famous stone circle, and the pushback from some UK Pagans over their decision to display human remains. Now, Pagan musician Corwen Broch has visited the new center, and shares some reflections at his blog. Quote: “I personally am not opposed to the display and retention of human remains providing they are displayed sensitively. In fact I’d go so far as to say I am in favour of the display of human remains as I feel they can be a tangible link to the lives of our ancestors in a way nothing else can. All that said however the remains at Stonehenge are not displayed sensitively. They are in the same cases as antler picks and reconstructed arrows which seems to symbolically reduce them to the status of inanimate objects rather than what was once the remains of a thinking feeling human being. One person’s bones in particular are wired together and displayed upright fixed to a board in a way that made me viscerally uncomfortable. It is extremely saddening to me that English Heritage did not take a middle way with these remains and at least abide by HAD’s best practice guidelines. The current lack of sensitivity seems almost calculated to prolong the controversy and the protestations and plays into the hands of those most opposed to the display of human remains whilst making it difficult for those of us in favour of display to defend English Heritage.” Despite these concerns, Broch says the structure has “vastly improved” from its previous iteration, and has no concerns apart from the manner in which human remains are presented.

In Other Pagan Community News:

The Circle Sanctuary Winter Solstice Pageant

The Circle Sanctuary Winter Solstice Pageant

  • Solstice songs! T. Thorn Coyle has uploaded a new (free) song for the season, called “Invictus (Solstice)” to her Bandcamp page. Quote: “This is once again my Solstice gift to you. It started out a poem, but wanted to simplify into a song. Just me and GarageBand, baby. Pay what you will. All money supports Solar Cross temple and our justice work.” In other Solstice song news, Damh the Bard has a song up for you too!
  • Performer Lyra Hill, daughter of Anne Hill (you may know her through her work with Reclaiming), has been featured in the People 2013 issue of the Chicago Reader. Anne Hill says of her daughter that “Lyra’s exploration of dreams through art challenges me to keep looking for new ways to bring the power of dreams into waking life. I hope she inspires you, too.” 
  • Cherry Hill Seminary is seeking an artist in residence. Quote: “Cherry Hill Seminary, provider of distance education for Pagan ministry, seeks candidates for an Artist in Residence. Candidates working in any medium and who wish to be directly engaged for a period of two years in support of the CHS mission of distance education for leadership, ministry and personal growth in Pagan and other Nature-Based spiritualities may obtain full details or apply at this link.” Compensation? “Visibility,” promotion from CHS, and a quarterly feature in the official newsletter.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!